Fifteen of thirty matches played. 22 of 45 points won.
A new standard for expansion in the league, and yet no where near the goals that the organization has put forward. What have we learned from the first half of the Sounders season?
1 - Like in hockey a great keeper can carry a club. Kasey Keller has provided leadership on the pitch and with the press, but most importantly he was able to save several mistakes in coverage that enabled the point total to this point.
2 - Chemistry matters. Despite the rapid start there were signs in the second 6 matches that some players didn't know where the others were going to be. The Freddyain (two Freds) both tried to occupy the same space too often. Only after time will this go away. Placing Ljungberg on the Right Wing has helped, and there aren't enough matches with that strategy to yet know how the opposition will react.
3 - Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero have it. I don't know what it is, but they have it. That thought that when they touch the ball something special will happen. Neither gets back on defense enough, but when the ball rests at their feet something special is likely to happen. If you weren't standing when they get the pass you are as soon as they receive it.
4 - There is a new king of marketing in American sports. Quite simply Sounders FC have taken a third tier sport in our nation and put forward a first tier product that is getting first tier coverage from the media, and first tier passion from the community. The center of American professional soccer shifted West and North on March 19th. To lock that status in though there must be a stellar performance on the pitch.
5 - The stats don't lie, sometimes you just aren't looking at the right ones. Take Seb Le Toux. His goal and assist numbers aren't strong, but more important than that is how the team does when he's on the pitch. Quite frankly they do very well with a +/- of 7, highest of all outfield players. From the other end, people may not like how Jaqua looks on the pitch, but four goals and four assists in less than 1200 minutes should satisfy every fan. That's solid production in this league. In fact the Sounders have two players in the top 25 PP90 for the league, and they go four deep for threats in any given match.
6 - Seriously the stats don't lie. The West is better than the East. Largely due to the surprise performances from Chivas and Seattle Sounders FC, but still all the predictions concerning the league having tipped so far in the East's favor have been proven foolish. The West is a +10 GD and has 60 points in 44 matches putting it at 41 points if it was 30 matches.
7 - Sounders are best when they are running down hill charging at their opponent's goal, or the opponent with the ball. In the first six matches they did this, it was risky, but it put up 12 points on a 4 Win 2 Loss record. When Red Card hell happened they team became cautious. In their next six they only earned five points. In the last three they returned to Sigi's Game and earned five in only 3. The Enemy's Gate is Down.
8 - The future is unknown. Seattle Sounders FC still hold the rights to Jared Karkas and Mike Fucito, they have a single Developmental Roster slot open, and unless an injury occurs or a player gets cut the Senior Roster is now full. Set-plays are an issue, while Le Toux has been solid as the taker of corners the solution on Free Kicks is still unknown. Eight of the next fifteen are on the road, where Seattle is merely a mid-table league, but pacing for 15 points over the season. It will be those in the seven home matches were Seattle will get to prove that the Playoffs are theirs for the taking, if form holds they will only need 10 points in that stretch, but remember, the Playoffs are not the goal, just the path to the goal. Sounders are still eligible for two Cups and a Shield this year, points at home against teams like Houston, Chivas and Chicago are key to the Shield.
For more half way reports from Adrian Hanauer, Chris Henderson, David Falk, Steve Clare, John Zielonka, and Jorge Rivera click HERE.